In Part 1 we looked at the types of people that a narcissist is attracted to, now we need to consider why you chose a narcissist. It may mean that you have never received unconditional love. You may simply not know what this feels like. There can be many reasons for this. Your parents or guardians may have been narcissists themselves and were incapable of showing love. Your parents may not have been available to you because they were ill, too busy working or they had problems with addiction. True parental love differs significantly from conditional affection or kindness that is used to reward you for desired behaviour.
This means that you may have no basis for comparison. If you have never received unconditional love it is difficult to know how it feels or what to expect. In addition to that, the emphasis while I was growing up was always on “true love” as the gold standard for romantic relationships. This effervescent, transcendent thing was beyond definition except for the statement: “You’ll know it when it happens”.
More alarming than that was when I discovered that the true difference between lust and love, based on the above definition, was outcome. This is not a very good way to judge a relationship at the beginning. I am embarrassed to say that I may have tried to prove that I was in “love” not “lust” simply by staying in some of my relationships.
This “true love” view of the ultimate relationship is dangerous because it means that you are raised to believe that “love will conquer all” and that simply is not true, especially when the love is one-sided. Being raised with this notion of what love is plays right into the narcissist’s hand.
The narcissist pretends to be deeply and truly in love with you. They need to see you all of the time. They may shower you with gifts. They want to spend every minute with you. They call, text, leave notes and basically reassure you constantly. They may also have this idealized “soul mate” vision that they convince you is attainable.
As I pointed out, while describing the signs that you are dating a narcissist, those behaviours are not actually love at all. This obsessive behaviour is smothering. Perhaps, not initially, but soon you realize that you cannot go out without disapproval. The narcissist needs to know where you are all of the time and there is no room for your wishes or desires.
So, lets look at what is important for the long term. The overall goal is being with this person enhances your life. They bring enough good that you are better off with them than you are without them. Sounds wonderful, but there are a lot of pitfalls in this, let me explain.
We all have needs. Needs to care for others, to be around others, to receive affection and companionship. If you have been lonely, like to have someone to take care of, or want to be taken care of, it may seem that the narcissist is “improving” your life simply by being around. The difference in a bad relationship is that spending time with them is often not that pleasant.
Everyone has good and bad moods and cannot be expected to always be pleasant. The distinction with a narcissist is that they have extremes and they are unpredictable. This creates two problems. The first is that there is an uncertainty when you are with them about what type of mood they are in and what type of mood they’ll be in soon. This puts a lot of pressure on you to ‘behave’ in a way that you know will lessen the possibility of them becoming unpleasant.
The second thing is that the swings are extreme. Some of the people that I have coached on this adore the passion that a narcissist brings to the table, but this enjoyment is usually short lived. What is happening is not the normal ups and downs of day-to-day life. It is the mood swings of someone that is not stable. A narcissist will use extreme anger or self-pity to control a situation. “Poor me” no one loves me. Or the opposite, “Fine, I won’t speak to you for days and days on end”. Both of these responses are exaggerated.
In normal relationships, a partner may lose their temper, be snippy or mean and then immediately become remorseful because they realize that they have hurt you. The narcissist will not recognize that they have hurt you because they have an inability to empathize. You find yourself demanding an apology and whether or not you get it is not the point. You have discovered that this person did not “care” that they hurt you.
We need to examine two things at the beginning of any relationship:
Are they capable of love?
What is reasonable to expect when someone says they love you?
More on that in Part 3…